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Privacy? An Afterthought

6 Dec

Side Story series 

How much internet and cell phone related information do you exchange?

Do you tweet, giving random, anonymous people tweet-by-tweet details of your mental state, your happenings? Is your face all over your profiles, including your family and friends?

Do you use those “discount” cards at local grocery stores or drug stores to get a discount that used to be available without a card tracking each and every purchase? 


Gosh, years ago I saw a 20/20 news report, I believe, that showed where prisoners were processing loads of data from “discount” cards. Those were the first goosebumps that I got from the underbelly of data mining.

But then years later I heard during a presentation that “all the F.B.I. needs is a peek into anyone’s curb side trash to make a “99.999% accurate profile of them.”

That really got me to thinking. 

Of course We the People have never ever had true privacy, of course not. We’re ruled and governed for crying out loud and even with the strides in jaw dropping technology there has always been myriad ways to spy on anyone. (From strategically placed ink pens to cameras in stuffed animals gazing from fireplace mantels–a favorite used on babysitters and nannies–to two-way mirrors.) Of course we were always being watched in some way. But in the last handful of years it’s gotten so much worse and so very many people don’t seem to notice or care that certain aspects of their privacy should stay, well, private. 

And no, I’m not paranoid or hiding from The Man. I just value privacy and refuse to be an information guinea pig for random companies that I will NEVER do business with anyway. 

If you want to put your business out there, fine.  If you don’t mind your photos in your bathing suit ending up on a Russian dating site advertising single “available” women, fine.  But that’s your risk and a choice you make. But what about the truly dirty side of data mining, the stuff you may not know about?

Think this is all ridiculous concern?

Did you know data miners (a multibillion dollar business!) can tell if you’ll be divorced before you do? Did you know a person’s cell phone habits can reveal their depression even when they haven’t texted one clue about feeling down? Hmm.

For you doubters, check this out from ABC News Nightline:

See That Man Over There?

Personally I refuse to use my legal name on those aforementioned “discount” cards.  It’s one of the few choices I have left to maintain privacy.  Or at the very least, not make it easy for data miners, etc., to track what should remain private.  ( If I buy maxi pads or prefer Advil over Alleve it’s no one’s business. If I have a dog or a cat isn’t either. If I pay for a meal at Olive Garden at 2:38 p.m. and what I purchased doesn’t need a record, either.)  All of one’s preferences and movements simply should not be for sale.

Whatever shred of privacy I can keep, I’ll keep it, thank you very much.


Path 2 SOMEwhere

22 May

When I think back to the first time I gave my vocational future any real thought–in high school–I was all over the place. But not really all over the place. I mean, I never wanted to be an astronaut. Space just didn’t do it for me. Or anything having to do with being in the sky. Science didn’t do it for me. Sure, I liked stuff like Pop Rocks and Zotz candy but that’s as far as my scientific self stretched.

Forget about math.

Math was always, always akin to snake pits or firey furnaces. Total head bashing. I think I would get nauseaus on the way to math classes through junior/high school.  Once I think I ended up in the school nurses’ office. I may even have put my head on her lap. And I wasn’t faking. I.LOATHED.MATH. Trigonometry, calculus and geometry were pure evil to me. Just couldn’t handle protractors and square roots and formulas. I think I wept once in the back of a math class. This was a big deal for someone who was uber concerned with being cool. Tears had no place in school. EVER.

Then there were so many subjects and fields I simply knew little or nothing about. Like commerce or technology, which when I was growing up the latter wasn’t even a word used anywhere near as frequently as today. To a teenager in the 80’s it was like saying “yidshinbach.” Meant nothing, really.

Medicine? You mean blood?

Law? Borrrrrrrrrrrrrring.

Education? I thought of female teachers as pale women who wore big blow-out skirts, ugly brooches and flat Maryjane shoes who sat alone in the evenings with their cats grading papers. Nope.

Military? Again, nope. Combat and me already had a too-close relationship having grown up in a dysfunctional childhood.

So what was left?


Well, it wasn’t so much left as it was just who I was and still am. But when I was growing up there wasn’t much emphasis placed on making careers out of anything art or right-brain related. Artists (which includes writers, musicians, painters, sculptors, etc.) were considered near losers except for when they reached success. Artists were mostly considered sociological misfits who generally were lazy and didn’t want to work “real jobs”, perhaps couldn’t adapt to real life. (Not that artists weren’t always looked upon this way.)

I mean, Daniel Pink hadn’t written this yet.

And also, a lot of people still view artists as whatevers.

I mean, my own 80+ year old godmother said to me once “Well, Jennifer, the only way artists make it big is they have to die first.”


So there I was (and still am) trying to navigate being a semi-tragic right-brainer. A person who doesn’t fit a whole lotta places yet fits everywhere because of my right-brain adaptability and both-sides-of-the-fence grasping powers. I’ve never been pointed in the right direction; I’ve always had to discover the right direction.

Discover the right direction.

Do you know how many detours its taken?

Most detours look like this:

Nope, mine was/is more like this:

And to make matters “worse” I wasn’t merely a painter/illustrator. I was a writer, a cartoonist/artist, a bedroom stand-up comedienne, a singer, a hopeless crafter, a…

A flitterer. One who flits. A person with no solid ground. One dictionary’s recent definition of a flitterer is: “An empty-headed, silly, often erratic person.”

The last thing my head is is empty.

The tragedy of a delayed artist is a tragedy of delayed beauty, of delayed peace. After graduating college and working for just a handful of years I realized that there was no way I could ignore the gifts I’ve been given, a mandate of sorts. So now as I do something as hideous as job hunt (including interviews where I hold my breath during inquiries of gaps on my resume when I was flittering) I have a plan, a Master Plan.

The plan is to not give up on my gifts, to work them until they bleed, if they need to bleed, to die doing what I have the gifts to do. If I leave a legacy, great. If I don’t, still great. At least I lived inside of my gifts. There’s a quote from one of my favorite movies A Bronx Tale:  The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.”

I won’t be wasting mine anymore. Every thing I’ve got to give, there is an audience for it.

This is new thinking. Yet old information.

Another rambling from the Cubicle Rebel.

Side Story: Meat Therapy

27 Mar

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on this blog before but–ahem–I have serious issues with—with–meat. There. I said it in cyberspace. I mean, just look at this:

I don’t care how well you cook it, how many pickle slices, mustard, mayo (another disgusting thing) or ketchup and onions or garnish you put on it, THIS IS WHAT IT REALLY IS. Right there.

It’s really strange, too, my meat hang-up. I mean, it’s not a love-hate relationship with meat. Rather, it’s a don’t like-hate relationship with all things fleshy. I remember being a kid and being told to finish my dinner or lunch or whatever and whenever it involved certain kinds of meat, I was in big trouble. I could sit at the kitchen table for hours after everyone else had long left the kitchen and were burping up after dinner essence in front of the TV. They had eaten their dessert already, too. I would miss the tail end of  Sonny & Cher on account of those icky veins clinging to a chicken drumstick.

Not to mention it’s a foot-leg. A foot-leg. I mean, for crying out loud, you can see where the foot was cut off. Where the animal WALKED AROUND.

And don’t even mention salami.

All those awful, horrid, unsightly beads of fat and gristle–too much to bear.

I loathed sausage as a kid. Still do. (Hey, you know what they say: Two things you never want to see being made are laws and sausages.)

Oy infinity.

My grandfather would go fishing and return home with a bucket of fish to my horror. Of the other two kids in the house, for some reason I remember ME having to scale them in the kitchen sink. Of course I could only do it if I put on my grandmother’s near elbow-length yellow rubber gloves first. Just looking down into that smelly bucket and seeing those dead fish and their eyes all unblinking staring at me made my eyes water. And get this: ole Daddy expected me to cut the heads off. Child abuse for sure. Oh, how I wept at that kitchen sink. 

It was all too much.

Fish eyes and chopped off fish heads (which I never could bring myself to do anyway; I refused to chop the head off of anything) and scales flying everywhere and the stench that filled the kitchen and hearing the TV in the living room that I couldn’t watch because I was on fish duty.


So I always had issues with meat. With flesh. With eating the body of something. The eyes. The tail. The guts. The veins. Hoofs. Feet. Snouts. Ears. The organs.

OHMYGOSH. The organs!

We had liver every so often, too. That stringy, tough, horribly strange looking meat that at eight years old I’m not sure I knew was an actual LIVER, as in an animal’s ORGAN that processes WASTE. (I think I need to find a post-meat therapist stat.) And my grandmother, bless her wondrousness, she used to order liverwurst from a catalogue and when it arrived us kids would taste it because, well, she’d made such a big deal about it. I think it came all the way from Germany (or Cincinnati) somewhere and see, we could go to school and tell our friends that we’d eaten liverwurst, dears.

Gristles and bone marrow and fat and odd strings inside of animal flesh. I ate it because I was a rent-free kid and, well, because others around me ate it. My fellow people would sit down to the dinner table and place their face into their food and chew and swallow. They seemed to enjoy this meat stuff so I did it too. But I did it hesitantly. I was often accused of wasting food. Of wasting “good food.” SO EAT UP NOW. I was threatened with no dessert far too often. (Light bulb moment: I think that’s why to this day I cannot NOT have dessert after dinner.)

At aged five through perhaps 15 I just couldn’t bring myself to easily put gristles and fat and strings and veins in my mouth. Flesh disturbed me. Spaghetti didn’t. Flesh disrupted me. Peanut butter & jelly didn’t. Flesh uprooted me. Cap’n Crunch cereal didn’t. Flesh horrified me. French fries didn’t.

I  remember when Wendy’s fast food restaurant rolled out their chicken sandwiches in 1987-88 and I ordered one on a lunch break from my temp job and I was driving and opening the wrapper simultaneously. I bit down into that chicken sandwich and–swear to gosh–a huge vein BOINGED from the flesh and bounced against my chin. I almost crashed my car. For a milli-second I thought the chicken sandwich was…ALIVE. Needless to say I threw the dang thing on the floor of my car and wiped my tongue with napkins I was so repulsed. I considered returning it to Wendy’s but between being on a short lunch break and not knowing how “Excuse me, Mr. Wendy’s Manager? This chicken sandwich is supernatural; I’d like my money back” would go over, I kept pressing on.

See? I’m meat rambling. This is really bad. I’ll stop here and go have a cheese sandwich. Zero gristles.

Big Shot Dirty Man

23 Mar

When I worked at the Department of Justice many years ago we had an executive guy who sat in his window office in downtown Washington, D.C. and– get this– smoked cigarettes.


Oh, yes he did.

This was circa mid-90’s when I’m assuming few thought that secondhand smoke could affect those who weren’t smoking. There we’d be, us lowly office clerks filing and typing and answering the ever ringing phones with his cigarette funk floating through the vents all around us.

None of us would dare say anything like, “Um, excuse me, Mr. Reign Over Us, could you, um, stop smoking ALL DAY LONG INSIDE the building?”

Every so often he would emerge from his office and eyeball us and then return to his smoky den.

I think I once saw him with his feet propped up on his desk while gazing out of his window.

That guy rattled me to my utmost fibers.

Sometimes I wonder where he is now. Probably retired and sitting somewhere in flip-flops in Pensacola with a cigarette in his mouth.

Don’t know what made me think of him today but there he was hanging out in my mind annoying me post-offense.

Just thought I’d share an office story with you. Wink.

Oy. Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I see those people in the stores rushing to buy last-minute doo-dads for their loved ones or hopeful loved ones for Valentine’s Day. Chocolates and cards with words that someone else wrote. I see them. I see the messy shelves strewn with red heart shaped boxes that mostly men will present to their muse. I see the long lines at the flower shops while rose stems are being snipped and placed in cute wrapping paper. I feel the buzz. As an easily annoyed person this red holiday doesn’t exactly bode well with my innermost fibers. But momentarily I’ll put aside my envy own grumblings and pretend it doesn’t bother me.

Some facts on this Hallmark holiday:

Nearly 140-150 million cards are exchanged each year. (Whoa, that’s a lotta trees!)

Mother’s Day & V-Day are the two most flower gifted holidays.

Men spend twice as much as women on V-Day.

Teachers receive the most valentines, followed by kids, mothers, wives and sweethearts.

The number of people who will insert V-Day inspired chocolate into their mouth within the next 48 hours: many.

Millions of pet owners purchase V-Day gifts for their household pets.

Speaking of pets, when I was a kid my family attended the funeral of another relative at Arlington National Cemetery. While we left the car door open for a little while–most likely waiting for others to return to the car–a beautiful Daschund ran over and jumped right into the backseat as if she had known us for years. Long story short, we couldn’t find an owner so we took her back home and kept her through two puppy litters and until she died. We named her Tammy and chose February 14 as her birthday. We even let her lick the inside of ice cream boxes (after we had scooped most of it out and eaten it ourselves) each year in honor of her special birthday. She would lick and lick and lick as the opened near empty ice cream carton moved across the floor and right into a corner of the kitchen.

Ah, now that’s a good V-Day connection slash memory.

Side Story: The Odd Places We Find Comfort

12 Dec

I have a secret, sort of.

For years while stuck in cubicles I would find things (comforts) to turn to when I got home from work each evening. Of course there was food. Of course. (Sometimes there were half cakes. Red velvet. Once there was a long dance with a carrot cake. Followed by slight self-hatred. ) There were cute shoes.  There were magazines. Lots and lots of magazines. I’d sit flipping through miscellaneous articles like How to Drive Your Man Crazy in Bed or Move Up in the Job You Love.  As a barren spinster, with more emphasis on the barren, I usually didn’t have a man to “drive crazy”and I never ever in life had a job that I loved.  Why, the words “job” and “love” were enemies. So in the midst of ugly magazine articles and food trysts I discovered a television show that changed everything.

The Gilmore Girls

I don’t know what precisely it was that drew me in and put clasps on my brain but I couldn’t get out. (Not that I wanted to get out.) Although the snappy language was a welcome change from the uber-boring corporate chat. I would watch especially the older episodes and I somehow related to both Lorelai and Rory though I didn’t come from wealth nor had I been a single parent. And God knows I never ran into a man such as Luke…But that’s just it…

The fantasy of it all (crime free town set in an idyllic setting, an entire town of support), the umph of it all (following your dreams, bucking the system), the quirkiness of it all (Miss Patty, Babbette, Kirk, the Town Selectman, the Town Troubadour, Hep Alien, Mrs. Kim with her meatless sandwiches and cryptic Bible talk, Paris Geller, etc.) the crux of it all (mother issues, love/dating issues), the pure friendship of it all (between Lorelai and Sooki and Lane and Rory, Luke and Lorelai) uprooted my very cubicle days.

Suddenly I couldn’t wait to get home to watch daily recordings of The Gilmore Girls. Somehow I had missed the beginning of the show in 2000 but in 2003 while renting a room in a house that had cable missing from certain bedrooms I found myself stuck with basic television channels and serendipitously arrived in Stars Hollow with Lorelai and Rory. And Luke. GOSH, LUKE. Life hasn’t been the same since. Even in 2007 when the show finally closed shop I purchased all seven seasons so that I would always be able to get my GG fix, so that I could just press PLAY and experience a town that hopeless viewers, including myself, have actually Googled to see if it exists so that they could possibly move there.

See? I’m not alone.

And I feel better having shared this secret that a TV show drove many days. Not a person, not a tangible friendship, not a tangible loving man figure, but a TV show.

We should all have fictional people in fictional towns to help us deal with real people in real cubicles.